Submitted: September 23, 2016
from United States District Court for the Northern District
of Iowa - Cedar Rapids
COLLOTON, MELLOY, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.
COLLOTON, Circuit Judge.
jury charged Midamar Corporation, William Aossey, and Jalel
Aossey with several criminal offenses arising from their sale
of falsely labeled halal meat. The defendants moved to
dismiss the indictment for lack of jurisdiction. Their theory
was that Congress had reserved exclusive enforcement
authority over the alleged statutory violations to the
Secretary of Agriculture, and that the United States Attorney
could not proceed against the defendants in a criminal
prosecution. The district court denied the motion, concluding
that it was both untimely and incorrect on the merits.
Corporation and Jalel Aossey then pleaded guilty
conditionally to one count of conspiracy to commit several
offenses in connection with the scheme, while reserving the
right to appeal the denial of their motion to dismiss.
William Aossey proceeded to trial, and a jury convicted him
of conspiracy, making false statements on export
certificates, and wire fraud. The defendants appeal the
district court's denial of their motion to dismiss for
lack of jurisdiction. The government does not assert that the
motion was untimely, but defends the district court's
decision on the merits, and we affirm.
Corporation sells and distributes halal-certified meat and
other food products in the United States and internationally.
William Aossey founded Midamar in 1974; in 2007, he
transferred ownership of Midamar to his sons, Jalel and Yahya
Aossey. The United States Department of Agriculture regulates
the company, and Midamar's meat labeling is governed by
the Federal Meat Inspection Act. 21 U.S.C. § 601, et
seq. Under the Act, the Food Safety and Inspection
Service is responsible for the inspection and oversight of
meat packaging and labeling.
February 2010, the USDA Office of Program Evaluation,
Enforcement, and Review started an investigation into Midamar
and its labeling practices. The Office concluded that between
April 2007 and January 2010, Midamar employees, under the
direction and supervision of the owners and managers,
knowingly forged and falsified USDA export documents and
certificates for shipments of purported halal beef. As a
result of this investigation, the Inspection Service withdrew
its services from Midamar. This withdrawal temporarily
prevented Midamar from exporting meat products from its own
facility. After Midamar proposed corrective and preventative
measures, the Inspection Service gave notice in July 2011
that it intended to reinstate services for the company.
years later, the government obtained an indictment against
the defendants. A grand jury charged Midamar, Jalel Aossey,
and others with conspiracy to make and use false statements,
sell misbranded meat, and commit mail and wire fraud, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. The indictment also
charged them with making false statements on export
certificates, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 611(b)(5),
wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343, money
laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(2)(A),
and conspiracy to commit money laundering, in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 1956(h). The grand jury charged William Aossey
with the same violations in a separate indictment.
defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that the district court
lacked jurisdiction over the criminal case because the Meat
Inspection Act gave the Secretary of Agriculture exclusive
jurisdiction to address the specified violations. The
district court denied the motion. Midamar and Jalel Aossey
entered conditional guilty pleas, and William Aossey was
convicted after a jury trial. The district court imposed
sentences, and this appeal followed.
issue joined on appeal is whether two provisions of the Meat
Inspection Act, 21 U.S.C. §§ 674 and 607(e),
removed this case from the district court's jurisdiction.
Although we have upheld convictions based on violations of
the Meat Inspection Act in previous cases, e.g.,
United States v. Jorgensen, 144 F.3d 550 (8th Cir.
1998) (addressing misbranding in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§ 610), the jurisdictional argument advanced here has
not been raised and decided, so we must consider it as an
original matter. See Fed. Election Comm'n v. NRA
Political Victory Fund, 513 U.S. 88, 97 (1994). We
review the district court's conclusion on this legal
issue de novo.
18 U.S.C. § 3231, "[t]he district courts of the
United States shall have original jurisdiction, exclusive of
the courts of the States, of all offenses against the laws of
the United States." The grand jury charged the
defendants with committing such offenses, and the district
court asserted jurisdiction under § 3231. Section 3231
is generally the "beginning and the end of the
'jurisdictional' inquiry, " United States v.
White Horse, 316 F.3d 769, 772 (8th Cir. 2003)
(quotation omitted), but Congress can remove the district
courts' jurisdiction over criminal prosecutions if it
makes a "clear and unambiguous expression of the
legislative will." United ...